Say goodbye to the bright, shiny object. Social technologies are no longer a foreign land. "I call it a culture of sharing," says Charlene Li, founder and partner at Altimeter Group. "It's become frictionless for us to share things with each other."
The culture of sharing has changed many things in our lives. President Obama did an amazing job of changing the way politics worked. In the old days, the only way to have a relationship with a candidate was to give big money to his or her campaign. Obama was by far the most successful public figure to use social technologies to reach people directly.
But how do we do this? First, you need to have confidence and humility. Influence is also critically important.
But open leadership is a spectrum, and there are many decisions to be made with regard to information sharing and decision-making. It's not black or white; leaders must think clearly about the extent of the openness they are willing to foster.
With Twitter it's so easy to find those people--those who may be venting, complimenting or otherwise discussing your brand--and engage with them. You can save a sale, or just make a transaction easier for a customer. BestBuy's Twelpforce is a great example.
So what do you do?
- Align openness with strategic goals. Examine your goals, and pick one where open and social can have an impact.
- Understand the upside. What is the value? Look at lifetime value? Value of purchase minus cost of acquisition = lifetime value. But how many refer? How big are their networks? These are also elements of value.
- Support open leadership. These are hard things to change; people tend to be very optimistic or pessimistic about what people will do if they are given more power to change things. The hardest part is to convince the curmudgeon.
- Manage risk with sandbox covenants. Clearly define the parameters within which people can work.
- Embrace failure. Walmart has done an impressive job of this. While it's easy to smirk, they have genuinely learned from past failures and have used what they learned to inform their next strategy.